Screw the mainstream if you really want to get your rocks off you have to go to the underground. That's just what we plan to do with this series, take some of the best emerging bands that are out blowing away hardcore fans on the underground music scene.
By Travis Becker
- Dare I Say
A herpetologist on television was just relaying a theory that once a snake invenomates its prey, the bitten entity changes fundamentally on a chemical level. They are literally not the same creature any longer. This, in simpler terms, is the concept of being “snakebit.” If ever there is a snakebit rock star it might just be John Garcia. The unique vocalist from the deserts of California has exuded a distinctly different chemical aura since the implosion of earthquake-metal pioneers, Kyuss, almost ten years ago. Kyuss only became hugely influential after they disbanded in the mid-90’s. He then formed Unida, whose well-received debut album, “Coping with the Urban Coyote”, proved to be a shot in the arm for the already stagnating Stoner Rock movement. After being signed to a major label, however, Unida’s luck ran out and their fully recorded follow-up album was shelved and may never see the light of day, even through a thick cloud of smoke. His band mates in Kyuss then went on to mainstream success in Queens of the Stone Age without him. John Garcia isn’t really “snakebit” but if he was, Hermano is the antivenom he’s needed.
“Dare I Say” is the second record by Hermano, a supergroup of sorts, made up of members of Supafuzz along with Garcia and bassist/producer, Dandy Brown who also helms the Desert-Rock band, Orquesta del Desierto. Their first album, 2002’s “Only a Suggestion…” sold well through grass roots promotion and Garcia’s first touring in several years, but only laid the groundwork for what was to come. It felt like a diversion at times and took two full years after it’s 2000 tracking to be released “Dare I Say” proves to be a much more fully realized recording and feels less like a side project. The music is strongly rooted in the blues and sometimes recalls the feel of blues-based boogie bands like Humble Pie in ethos if not approach. The guitars are warm and the bass and drums swing throughout. Garcia is a strong vocalist and it’s nice to see that he’s featured heavily throughout the album. His higher-ranged, but powerful voice becomes another lead instrument on many of the songs. The music feels more comfortable with a beer than a joint. It’s got that workmanlike spirit to it.
Comparisons to the rest of Garcia’s body of work are inevitable, much to his chagrin no doubt. It’s only fair to say first that Hermano is nothing like Kyuss, except for the trademark wail of the vocals and even they come across as more pure and less molded to the music. A more worthy comparison may ironically be to the Queens of the Stone Age. Songs like “Life” and “Is This OK?” recall the mellow guitars and smoky styling of QOTSA with their spaciousness and rhythmic punch. “Murder One” actually stokes the coals of the Orquesta del Desierto campfire, floating off into the desert night with acoustic guitars and harmonies. At times both delicate and crushing, “Dare I Say” is an organic-feeling album. It’s peyote in an LSD rock medicine cabinet.
Hermano probably won’t break through to the mainstream, and given his past experiences, it is unlikely John Garcia would answer the door if the majors came knocking again. For those dedicated enough to seek them out or lucky enough to catch them live or hear the record, Hermano will prove to be one of the most solid heavy rock offerings of the year. Garcia may be snakebit but no matter, he spits venom when he sings and we should all be so lucky to get a face full. And if it changes our own chemical auras, so much the better.